The March issue of The Atlantic carries an engaging article, "Management Secrets From the Grateful Dead."
In it, Joshua Green writes: "The Dead's influence on the business world may turn out to be a significant part of its legacy… The band pioneered ideas and practices that were subsequently embraced by corporate America."
This is not headline news to blfr readers (see my earlier post and comments) but it's nice to see some mainstream acceptance of the notion that rock bands have a few things to teach us in business matters.
Green goes on to argue that the Dead were savvy businessmen who jumped all over merchandising as a key revenue source and were ahead of the curve in their "customer first" orientation and determination to deliver superior customer value.
He lauds the band's adaptability in allowing fans to tape live performances, beginning in the early '70s, which created a larger audience for their music—an example of the Dead's already-developed give-it-away-free business model. (By then they were performing more free concerts than any other band around.)
Not surprisingly, one of the band's lyricists, John Barlow, became a founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and an influential Internet sage. He wrote in Wired in 1994: "The best way to raise demand for your product is to give it away." (This further establishes the claim that the Dead were a prime contributor to the free ethos of the net.)
As Barlow told Green:
"What people today are beginning to realize is what became obvious to us back then—the important correlation is the one between familiarity and value, not scarcity and value.
If I give my song away to twenty people, and they give it to twenty people, pretty soon everybody knows me, and my value as a creator is dramatically enhanced. That was the value proposition with the Dead."
These free-thinking improvisers—reviled in some quarters as radical, drug-addled, anti-capitalist hippies—turned out to be one of the most profitable bands of all time. (A nice touch of green for Uncle John's Band.)
I wonder if it's coincidental that Google co-founder Larry Page was raised on a diet of Grateful Dead concerts by his Deadhead dad?